New-type coronavirus causes pneumonia in Wuhan: expert

The coronavirus is different from known human coronavirus species, including the viruses that had caused SARS and MERS, according to a Chinese expert.

Preliminary lab results showed a new-type coronavirus had caused the viral pneumonia in central China's Wuhan, according to Xu Jianguo, a Chinese expert who led a team to evaluate the pathogen test results.

The newly detected coronavirus is different from known human coronavirus species, said Xu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Laboratory tests on samples from patients found 15 positive results of the new-type coronavirus, and the virus was isolated from one patient's samples, according to Xu. Fifty nine cases of the pneumonia have been reported as of Sunday.

Xu said that further research will be conducted to better understand the new coronavirus. It may take years for researchers to develop medicines and vaccines.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Six human coronaviruses species have been discovered, four of which only cause mild respiratory symptoms. The rest two are linked to SARS and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), respectively.

Lu Hongzhou, an expert of infectious diseases at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, told the public, “there is no need to be panic because the new type of coronavirus behind the outbreak is lowly contagious and pathogenic.”

The World Health Organization said in a statement on Wednesday that a new coronavirus could not be excluded as a possible cause of the disease.

The WHO noted that coronaviruses emerge periodically - including in 2002 to cause SARS and in 2012 to cause MERS.

"More comprehensive information is required to confirm the pathogen, as well as to better understand the epidemiology of the outbreak, the clinical picture, the investigations to determine the source, modes of transmission, extent of infection, and the countermeasures implemented," the WHO said.

The local health authorities said that the eight pneumonia patients hospitalized in Wuhan have been cured of the disease and were discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

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